Local veterans, county officials and staff members were on hand to celebrate Lewis County joining Thurston County as the only two in Washington State to be officially recognized as Purple Heart Counties Monday morning.
The Lewis County Board of Commissioners approved the declaration at their regular meeting Monday.
Heidi Palmer, Public Health and Social Services’ community outreach rep for worker-veterans services, introduced a resolution to honor all the men and women in Lewis County who have sacrificed for their country.
She said the Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military decoration — dating back to 1780 when General George Washington first created the medal as the Badge of Merit — that is traditionally presented to Armed Forces members who are killed in action or wounded in combat.
“Many of those killed in action or wounded in combat are or were residents of Lewis County who served their country with honor and distinction,” said Palmer, herself a former military service member.
She was followed by Jim Sims, the past national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, who saluted the nearly 8,000 veterans residing in Lewis County, along with 480 of them who were awarded Purple Heart medals.
“But this is an honor not just for Purple Heart recipients, but for all veterans and their families because the veteran doesn’t serve alone,” he said. “He or she serves with their family that is often left behind worried about a safe return.”
Joining in the ceremony were representatives Kari Dodson and Cole Musgrove from the offices of Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) and Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground) respectively.
Musgrove relayed a message from Herrera Beutler in which she thanked “our heroes and the sacrifices” they made and how they “rose up to do extraordinary things.”
Director of Public Health and Social Services JP Anderson addressed the crowd and reported that 13 public roadway signs within Lewis County will soon feature the newly-acquired Purple Heart designation.
He also singled out the efforts of Patriot Guard Riders member Mary Astrid for reaching out to Palmer several months ago to collaborate on the process of securing Lewis County its Purple Heart status.
County Commissioner Bobby Jackson capped off the public event by declaring the occasion as a “great day for Lewis County,” and later proceeded to invite all veterans in the crowd to approach the bench and pose for group photos.